Norwegian Orca Survey is a non-profit research organisation dedicated to studying and monitoring killer whales in Norwegian waters. Collecting robust data, building a better understanding of this population's life history, ecology and health status, and putting this knowledge available to management bodies are of crucial importance to achieve effective conservation, and constitute our main objectives. Using ground-breaking research technologies, we generate innovative knowledge,
delivered through publications in academic journals. We also investigate stranded marine mammals and conduct interventions to assist animals in distress and promote animal welfare in Norway.
Killer whales are the largest species in the Delphinidea (dolphins) family. They occur in all the world's oceans and, as top-predators, they have a special role in marine ecosystems. Gathering detailed information about them is needed to assess their conservation status, as well as understanding how they may impact prey stocks. Interestingly, regional killer whale populations may differ in morphology, pigmentation, behavior and diet. In the eastern North Pacific, killer whales have been studied for over four decades. Most of our knowledge on killer whales today comes from these long-term studies, which constitute a real inspiration for other parts of the world. In Norway, much remains to be investigated and learnt.
Individual killer whales can be reliably identified using the scars that naturally occur on the grey saddle patch (adjacent to the dorsal fin) and, the shape of and nicks in the dorsal fin. Known as 'photo-identification', this method was first introduced by late Dr Michael Bigg in the eastern North Pacific and has been used by scientists worldwide ever since. In Norway, photo-identification studies were initiated in 1984 and were carried out by colleagues until 2005. Norwegian Orca Survey took over the ID-project in 2013, ensuring the legacy of this work. The merging of historical and current ID-catalogues is underway, with the ultimate goal of building the longest dataset on Norwegian killer whales, from 1984 to present.
Because dead stranded marine mammals offer a unique opportunity for sampling, measuring and photographing, we started systematic sampling of whale, dolphin and seal carcasses in 2014. In 2018, a research collaboration between Norwegian Orca Survey, the University of Oslo (UiO) and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) was created in order to organise laboratory analysis of tissue samples. Klima-og miljødepartementet (Arktisk 2030) funded the ongoing research project on levels of pollution in Norwegian whales. If you come across a stranded animal, please get in touch!
Hvaldimir is the so-called 'Russian spy-whale' that appeared in northern Norway in April 2019. After he settled his temporary home in the harbour of Hammerfest, it became increasingly obvious that the cute whale came from a managed-care setting and was in rather poor nutritional condition. Concerned about his welfare and survival, and to assist the local community with such unusual and challenging situation, Norwegian Orca Survey went onsite and initiated a response. Upon permission from the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries, we managed his care and monitoring throughout 2019.
Live stranded and entangled marine mammals in Norway should be reported to the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries as fast as possible. They will assess the situation and do the necessary to help the animal(s).
Contact 24/7: 03415
We step in on more unusual situations that may require expertise on cetacean behaviour for positive outcome. If you come across a marine mammal that you suspect to be sick, isolated or trapped in the shallows, we can help.